Scandalous, Extravagant and Controversial Queen of FranceBy Tessa H

Marie Antoinette was born on November 2, 1755 as the ninth daughter to Maria Therese of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. She married Louis Auguste in 1770. In 1774, her husband became king however by this time she had withdrawn with the restraints of French court etiquette. During this time she became involved in high fashion, spending large amounts of money on clothing upsetting nobles as France was in a terrible financial state.

Family Background:
Marie Antoinette was the ninth daughter out of fifteen children in her family. Her parents were Maria Therese of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Marie Antoinette's mother was Maria Therese of Austria who was born in 1717. Through her life she was the archduchess of Austria and the Holy Roman Empress as well as Queen of Hungary and Bohemia. Maria Therese's father was Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. Marie Antoinette's father was Holy Roman Emperor Francis I who was born in 1708. Francis died in 1765 due to smallpox. Maria Therese died fifteen years later in 1780.
Ancestors of Marie Antoinette
Ancestors of Marie Antoinette

Early Life:
Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna was born on 2 November 1755 at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. Her childhood was simple and careless. She was never lonely and was encouraged to play games with non-royal children. She shared a strong friendship with her slightly older sister, Maria Carolina. Carolina once described her sister as someone she “loved extraordinarily”. Marie learned to play the harpsichord, spinet, clavichord and the harp. She was also an excellent dancer, Horace Walpole once quoted Virgil as to her gait, saying, "vera incessu patuit dea" (she was in truth revealed to be a goddess by her step). She spent a lot of her time playing with dolls. After her thirteenth birthday she received numerous dolls wearing miniature versions of the ball gowns and afternoon dresses proposed for her. Maria Antonia had a poor education due to a lack of interest and willingness to contribute to her lessons. However, she enjoyed and excelled in her music endeavors. She learned Italian on top of French and German. As well as Austrian and French history.
Her studies were more focused on religion and moral principals than academic subjects.
All of Maria Antonia's education was from an Austrian perspective. This was evident when she became Queen in 1774.

Marie Antoinette was the only surviving daughter after the smallpox plague who was eligible to marry. This left her to enter the french marriage with Louis-Auguste, Dauphin of France, making Marie Antoinette Dauphine of France. This marriage helped cement peace after the Seven Year's War between France and Austria. She assumed the title of Queen of France and of Navarre when her husband became Louis XVI of France became king after the death of his Father Louis XV in May 1774. Marie Antoinette remained Queen until two years into the French Revolution when she was executed.

The French Revolution:
Before 1789, France was ruled by the absolute monarchy, with the kings and nobles and church in power only. This meant that the people had very little power and money. The working class citizens at this time were restless and looking for radical solutions. As the American Revolution had taken place, the people could see that they could have power rather than the king.
There were numerous reasons that the French Revolution took place. King Louis XVI failed to deal with these problems, resulting in the French Revolution.
These included:
  • France was suffering in an enormous national financial crisis due to their involvement in the Seven Years War.
  • A bad crop produced high priced bread, causing ordinary people to suffer from malnutrition and hunger. This fuelled hatred towards the rich nobles who could afford good food as well as big houses.
  • The Roman Catholic Church, who owned most of the land in France, put a tax on crops.
  • Many of the people were against the total rule by royalty and nobility. As they saw the result of other countries that had an influence on the government they began to desire a revolution as well as freedom of religion.

The people of France attacked Bastille prison on 14 July 1789. The Bastille was a symbol of power of the nobility and the rule of the king and it also contained weapons. By the afternoon seven prisoners had been released as the people had broken into the Bastille. Bernard de Launay, the Governor of the prison was killed and his head was put on a stick.

Throughout the Revolution, Marie Antoinette planned to restore the power of the monarchy. In 1789 the royal family attempted to escape but were intercepted, taken back to Paris and held in prison. Whilst in prison, she acted with dignity and courage. At her death she still had pride and grace.

After the death of her husband in July 1793, Marie Antoinette’s son was forcibly taken from her. In September 1793 Marie Antoinette was separated from her daughter and sister in law. Marie was transferred to Conciergerie prison where she was under twenty four hour guard in a confine and damp cell. In prison she lost a lot of weight and her eyesight began to fail.
On October 14, faced trial where her own son was forced to testify that she abused him. The queen replied to all charges and to this she said, “If I make no reply, it is because I cannot, I appeal to all mothers in this audience.” Marie was found guilty.
On October 16 1793 Marie Antoinette was executed in front of large crowds. At noon her head was placed on the vice and the blade fell to loud cheers all round. Her bleeding head was held high for all to see. Later her head was throne in the cart between her legs. The body of Marie Antoinette was left on the grass before being dumped in an unmarked grave.

1. Marie Antoinette had two grandfathers. Look at her family tree to see who they were.
2. Why were her studies more focused on religion and moral principles rather than academic studies.
3. Why was the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette important?
4. Why was the French revolution such a threat to the monarchy?
5. Why was Marie Antoinette taken to prison?

Her Legacy:
Marie Antoinette is well known in world history for her efforts in the French Revolution and as a controversial French Queen. As a foreigner she was easily targeted for numerous accusations including corruption, treason and illicit sexual behavior.
Marie Antoinette lacked in popularity from the start and her life was often referred to as a scandal. The Diamond Necklace Affair fueled Frances hatred towards Marie Antoinette. Although the real events surrounding the diamond necklace are unknown it is believed that Cardinal de Rohan bought the Queen an extravagant and costly necklace, supposedly in return for sexual favors. This lead the public to dub her the 'Austrian Whore' and produced countless pamphlets spreading rumors about the Queen. Napoleon later stated the Affair was "The Queen's death must be dated from the Diamond Necklace Trial".
Marie Antoinette is most well known for being in power when the French Revolution took place in 1789. She will be remembered the hatred that was targeted towards her. Her life was extremely controversial. She was accused for many illicit behavior, and was not given a fair trail because they did not respect her.

Her role as either a despised or respected Queen will be argued for many centuries.

Time line:
2 November 1755: This is the date of Marie Antoinettes birth.
16 May 1770: At just 15 years old, Marie Antoinette married Dauphin Louis-Auguste a the Palace of Versailles.
11 June 1775: Marie Antoinette became Queen after the death King Louis XV in May 1774.
19 December 1778: Marie Antoinette gave birth to her first child, Marie-Therese Charlotte. Her other children were Louis Joseph Xavier Francois (22 October 1781), Louis Charles (27 March 1785), Sophie Helene Beatrice de France (9 July 1786-19 June 1787).
14 July 1789: On this day the people of France attacked the Bastille, which began the French Revolution.
July 1789– November 1799: During these two dates the French revolution took place and ultimately overthrew the monarchy.
21 June 1791: The entire family attempted to escape, however were captured within 24hrs at Varennes and were taken back to Paris within a week.
1 August 1793: Marie Antoinette was taken to the Tower and entered into the Conciergerie as Prisoner No. 280. She was kept here until her trial. During this period she became very weak, started to lose her eyesight and lost a lot of weight.
21 January 1793: Louis was executed at the age of thirty-eight.
16 October 1793: After being trailed on 14 October, Marie Antoinette was sentenced to execution by guillotine.

Red: Marie Antoinette's birthplace, Hofburg Palace Vienna.
Blue: Where Marie and the King lived in
Green: With their two children, they tried to escape to here, Montemedy, however
Orange: They only got to Varennes. They were then take back to Paris.

Primary Sources:

Source 1:
This is a sketch of Marie Antoinette at her execution on October 16 1793. It was painted by an artist who despised Marie Antoinette marie8a.jpgand painted this picture in reflection of his hatred towards her.

This source reveals that state of Marie Antoinette at her final stage. This reveals to historians the last years of her life were stressful and difficult, resulting in her aged appearance. The French Revolution placed great strain on Marie Antoinette as interpreted by the artist in the drawing. The closed eyes reveal that she did not want to face the defeat and humiliation in front of the public. Her stance illustrates the pride she held and did not want to commit to her wrong doings.

Source Two: "The Queen's death must be dated from the Diamond Necklace Trial". (Napoleon)
This is a quote from Napoleon, stated after the Queens death. In the quote Napoleon is referring to the Diamond Necklace Affair, which raised much speculation and hatred toward the Queen.
This source reveals that the Diamond Necklace Affair was a dramatic turning point for the Queen. After the Affair her popularity decreased dramatically. The Affair contributed to the downfall of the French Monarchy. This can reveal the Queens legacy as it provides and answer for how and where the Queen went wrong, and her contribution to the French Revolution.

Source Three: "Madame, you have fulfilled our wishes and those of France, you are the mother of Dauphin". (Louis XVI)
This is a extract from King Louis XVI hunting journal after the birth of his first son.
This source can reveal many aspects of the Queens life. As a quote from the King, it depicts a traditional and significant role for the Queen. However the reason for bearing children was as a result of the King malfunctions. This quote reveals the large amount of pressure put on the Queen from not only the Royal family, but France as well.

Discussion: Through the past three sources, there are many perspectives shown. In the first source, the sketch is by an artist who did not agree with Marie Antoinette's actions and hated her for them. The sketch displays the Queen as arrogant old hag, grey and worn out. The second source is looking back at the Queen's actions and looking at the mistakes that she and were blamed for made during her reign. This perspective states that all the hatred and unpopularity she faced were due to having the blame of Diamond Necklace Affair forced upon her. The third perspective depicts the pressure placed upon her by husband to prove herself as a successful Queen. The extract shows the acceptance she is given after bearing a son.

Reading List:
  • Goodwin, A. (1967). The French Revolution. London: Hutchison & Co LTD - This book is very informative and describes the French Revolution in detail. It is does not have a lot of Marie Antoinette, however it does describe the influence she had on the French Revolution.
  • Grolier (1998). Encyclopedia of Knowledge. United States of America: Grolier Incorporated - This encyclopedia gives a brief overview of the Queen's life and her legacy. It is useful for an introduction to the Queens life and provides basic information about the Queen.
  • Marie Antoinette Online. - This website provides a thorough description of the Queen's life and they significant events throughout it. This website is useful as it provides many useful links other informative website. This website is easy to read and provides many photos of the Queen. However this website is very long and is blocked on school websites.
  • Marie Antoinette. - This website provides a brief, easy to read display of information. It provides links to other websites and has a list of recommended books. This website does not provide deep knowledge, rather provides a quick overview of Marie Antoinette's life.
  • Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. - This website is very informative and detailed. The website provides pictures, timelines, and a brief biography of the Queens life.
  • Top 5 Marie Antoinette Scandals. - This website gives a detailed insight to the five biggest scandals by and based around Marie Antoinette. This website is very informative, however it lacks in evidence and definite dates.



2. How many children did she have?
4. Who Marie Antoinette was married to?
6. Title used for the eldest son of a king of France, from 1349 to 1830.
7. Wife of Dauphin
8. True of False: Marie Antoinette once stated "Let them eat cake!"
1. What was stormed on July 14, 1789?
3. What took place between 1789 and 1799? French _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
5. What was Marie Antoinette was executed by?
6. What resulted in names for Marie Antoinette such as 'Austrian Whore' and the production of numerous pamphlets? _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Necklace Affair

Fun Fact:


Scramble: Unscramble the tiles to reveal the message.

Cloze passage:
The life of Marie Antoinette is oftern referred to as a ..................... As a foreigner her life as a Queen lacked in ...................... , and was hated by ......................... . The of pamphlets and futher spread of ....................... about the Queen were the result of the .......... .............. .............. . The ...................... was based around the belief that Cardinal de Rohan bought the ................. an necklace in return for sexual ................ . After the the public called her ............... such as 'Austrian Whore.'

Word Bank:
  • production
  • affair
  • Diamond
  • commoners
  • scandal
  • rumors
  • Necklace
  • favors
  • Affair
  • Affair
  • popularity
  • Queen
  • names

Picture Gallery:

Marie Sophie, the second daughter, only lived to one year of age
Marie Antoinette at seven years old

Marie Therese, the first royal child. Marie Therese was the only family member to survive the revolution

Louis-Joseph, the first son, Dauphin of France
Louis Charles, her second son
The cell Marie Antoinette spent her final months in
King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette's husband